by Richard McKinstry

The bookplate, sometimes referred to as an ex-libris, denotes the ownership of books, and they are customarily glued onto the inside of a book's front cover. Many early bookplates featured a family crest, but in more recent times, they have included just about any illustrative design that strikes the fancy of a book owner; thus, in addition to indicating ownership, they reveal something about the individual they stand for. Like printed books themselves, the earliest bookplates originated in Germany in the fifteenth century. Over the years they have been made using such techniques as etching; copper, wood, and steel engraving; lithography and chromolithography; and just about any other printing process that allows for the duplication of a single image. Surprisingly perhaps, there were more than 1,000 different bookplates used in America before 1800, the earliest likely belonging to Steven Day, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, printer, and dating from 1642.

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